At the Time of Writing: Digital Media, Gesture and Handwriting

Abstract (in English): 

This paper examines the way literary practice in digital media illuminates traditional literary processes that otherwise remain unremarked, and conversely, what the literary concept of ‘address’ might contribute to an understanding of the way digital media are reinventing literary agency. It explores handwriting as an embodied praxis linking thought with corporeality through the medium of gesture, and its transformations in text-based new media art. Handwriting (and especially signatures) has long been thought to make personality traits manifest. Its expressive gestural and kinematic aspect can be illuminated by Werner’s theory of physiognomic perception in which two-dimensional diagrams are shown as consistently corresponding to and eliciting a small number of categorical affects (happy, sad, angry) in viewers. Diane Gromala’s ‘Biomorphic Typography’ (2000 onwards) in which the user’s keystrokes generate biofeedback input which combines with the behaviours assigned to typography to animate text in the present time of writing draws on these conventions and complicates them in the process. By contrast, John Geraci’s locative media project ‘Grafedia’ (2004-2005), in which, as he says, ‘walls are made into websites’ handwriting signals the public discourse of graffiti with all its connotations of haste and illegality. In this work, users can write by hand on any of the various physical surfaces of the world and link this graffiti to rich media content that can be accessed by others as they come across the texts, appropriates the live dimension of handwriting as graffiti into the memorialising and communicative functions of a larger textual work that might also be collaboratively elaborated over time. The handwritten graffiti (in blue and underscored) mimics the default HTML hyperlink, which makes it visible as a piece of Grafedia, also signals the complex reciprocity between handwriting and print in new media work.

(Source: authors' abstract)

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Eric Dean Rasmussen